Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, December 17, 2021

It’s impossible to gauge how many people on MySpace and Facebook use their logged-in time as an escape from offline-life concerns. But its safe to say that the prospect of having an overdue mortgage lien, or other bill-collector notice, publicly “poked” at you would be considered an intrusion into what’s considered a safe haven.

The legal precedent established in Australia doesn’t apply to the rest of the world — yet. But it’s likely only a matter of time before it spreads, especially as the general economic collapse spurs creditors to be more aggressive in chasing down moneys owed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this served-by-Facebook channel in use in the United States within a year.

Hell, some collection agency could really attract publicity by setting up a Second Life outpost, and start serving papers avatar-to-avatar! (With a corresponding uptick in virtual homicides, no doubt.) It would be ideal for some sector or region known to be disposed toward long hours of online interaction — IT worker, tech hubs like Seattle or Northern California, etc.

It’s not an exact parallel, but using a social network persona and environment for legal processes brings to mind a similar odd-fit impulse to pump marketing messaging in the same space:

Advertising on social media sites like Facebook, Bebo and others is akin to going to a restaurant and asking for a seat at someone else’s table. Maybe they’ll be receptive and maybe they won’t.

Of course, people get subpoenas and the like sprung on them in social situations all the time, so maybe doing it electronically via socnet isn’t so outlandish.

This all feeds back into the mindset that online spaces are somehow private preserves, despite years of examples over how employers, spouses, etc. have used them to “reveal” unflattering information on others. As usual, an attitude adjustment takes hold quick when “real life” intersects, as would be the case in this Australian situation.

All that said, Facebook itself committed yet another PR blunder in its official reaction:

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt praised the ruling.

“We’re pleased to see the Australian court validate Facebook as a reliable, secure and private medium for communication,” he said.

“The ruling is also an interesting indication of the increasing role that Facebook is playing in people’s lives,” Schnitt added. The company said it believed this was the first time it has been used to serve a foreclosure notice.

Why on earth would the company essentially alienate its core audience with a statement like this? Regardless of the reality of the situation, Facebook gains nothing by endorsing it: The business community gets their authority to act from the government and doesn’t care if Facebook likes it or not; and the users now feel like Facebook is practically inviting the interlopers onto their highly-personalized pages. Classic no-win. The smart move would have been for Facebook to simply acknowledge the ruling, and say nothing more — neutrality.

Take it all together, and it’s entirely possible that users could start avoiding Facebook (and maybe other socnets) altogether. At minimum, Facebook could have dug itself a hole that its competitors could exploit as a selling point. Someone seriously needs to overhaul the company’s corporate communications department, before it catches up with them and causes serious damage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/17/2008 08:24pm
Category: Business, Social Media Online, Society, True Crime
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Douglas ponders this human-development milepost:

At what point in a child’s life do their parents stop describing them as X many inches long [and switch to] X many inches tall?

Not having any offspring myself, I don’t need to worry about this. But it seems to me that it should correlate with the switchover in relating the kid’s age from newborn-tailored months to regular-person years. And according to the mothering types, that break seems to come after baby hits 18 months/one-and-a-half years old.

In fact, why not further link the two measurements? I say, as soon as the kid starts walking, s/he loses both length and months, and achieves height and years.

Make it as formulaic as a standardized test analogy. It rewards early developers with person-hood (sorta), and saddles late-bloomers with continued infantileness. An early lesson in achievement.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/17/2008 07:20pm
Category: Society
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Ever since I’ve been toting around my iPod Touch, I’ve regularly run into a service set identifier (SSID) called “Free Public WiFi”. And without fail, every time I’ve connected to it — out of frustration/desperation at not finding another wireless Internet access point while out and about — it would come up a time-wasting dud.

I was always suspicious of this supposed Web hookup. With a name like that, it hints of phoniness, if not outright harmful malware. Since I was using an iTouch, I figured (rather naively, I guess) that even if someone was attempting a remote infiltration of my device, it wouldn’t amount to much. But I wondered how it would always manifest itself in all sorts of locations: Coffee shops, parks, residential neighborhoods, etc.

Now, I know the answer: It’s not some vast hacker-hijacking network that’s blanketing the area. Rather, it’s an annoying Windows Wireless Zero Configuration default glitch:

At one time or another somewhere out there someone connected to a real ad-hoc WiFi network that had the SSID “Free Public WiFi”. They added this network to their preferred network list. They then traveled to a location where this WiFi SSID didn’t exist (airport, airplane, and/or hotel). They powered on their laptop with the wireless card on and Wireless Auto Configuration took over and starting searching for WiFi networks… Windows gave up and configured WiFi card to ad hoc mode with the SSID “Free Public WiFi” (since it was a preferred network).

A second person in close proximity to the user above also has a wireless enabled laptop and is looking to connect to a WiFi network. They scan to see what is available and notice an SSID called “Free Public WiFi”… they connect to it not knowing that it is an ad hoc network. After a few seconds of wondering why they can’t surf the web they disconnect from the SSID, shrug their shoulders and move on with life. Now they have the viral SSID in their preferred list too. The next time they power on their laptop it starts to look for the “Free Public WiFi” SSID. This process is repeated in many locations across the US and world again and again. Soon this SSID is in preferred wireless networks lists everywhere spreads like a virus.

Note that “like a virus” bit. Basically, this phantom “Free Public WiFi” access point is a self-perpetuating software scrap, but it’s not one of those nasty harddrive-wrecking, data-thieving viruses that we’ve all been conditioned to be on-guard against. It’s basically harmless, if you don’t count the wasted time it eats by making you try to connect with it.

At least now I know to never bother trying it again. I’d love to know just where this ad hoc string ultimately started, but I’m thinking that’s one techie mystery that will never be solved.

(Via crackblur)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/17/2008 04:21pm
Category: Internet, Tech, iPod
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Proving that it’s never too early in life to start in on Twitter, NYU grad student Corey Menscher has invented the Kickbee, which is basically a prenatal baby monitor for daddy.

The wearable device made of a stretchable band with embedded electronics and sensors isn’t exactly a model of comfort. Small Piezo sensors attached directly to the band transmit small but detectable voltages when they are triggered by movement underneath. An Arduino Mini micro-controller wirelessly transmits the signals to an accompanying Java application via Bluetooth.

“I have a vibrating device in my pocket at all times,” says Menscher. “”Every time the baby kicks, it uploads a message to the server and I get a text message on my phone as well.”

So dad knows instantly when his fetus is stretching his/her legs. Not as instantly as mom, of course.

Follow the kick-by-kick action inside Menschler’s wife right here. Be on the lookout for cluster-tweet action like this 13-kick sequence from a week ago. I can easily see this become a wagering event — perhaps something to kick-start Baby Menscher’s college fund…

Then again, with all the buzz this invention has generated, I’m sure the orders will start pouring in from Babys R Us shortly, thus supplying a goldmine for the Menscher household. Something to embarrass the kid about as he gets older.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/17/2008 02:46pm
Category: Creative, Internet, Social Media Online, Tech
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